Former Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie definitely knew that rock and roll was in her DNA after witnessing David Bowie soundly trounce his would-be competitors on the legendary "Diamond Dogs Tour" in 1974. Within a year and a half, at the urging of controversial manager-producer Kim Fowley and the incomparable Joan Jett, the all-female, still influential Runaways were born. While immediate bona fide success eluded them in the states, Japan was another story, with sold out concerts, all-night parties, trashed hotel rooms, and intoxicating drugs on every corner.
Inner band turmoil, financial mismanagement, and substance abuse governed Currie's difficult decision to leave the band in late 1977. A largely unrealized short solo career and a stalled acting career – although Foxes with a teenage Jodie Foster is worthy of rediscovery – gave way to many wilderness years in the '80s. Fortunately, Currie found personal happiness when she beat her addictions, became a mother, and gained a handsome paycheck to boot as a talented chainsaw artist.
In 2010 the punk rockers were immortalized by Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning on celluloid, reviving interest in Currie's musical aspirations. She recently experienced a notable return to recording with the piston pumpin' "Rock This Christmas Down", a fun duet with longtime friend and former band mate Lita Ford, best known as the lead guitarist in The Runaways.
Her third solo album and first in an astonishing 34 years is scheduled for release later this year. To quell fans' anticipation, Currie and Ford are doing a very special joint signing appearance at the popular Days of the Dead horror convention in Atlanta between Feb. 7 and 9.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Currie is grateful for her fans' unconditional love and support. In a just-released, exclusive interview, the fiercely independent realist digs deep for a rare look into her wildly compelling life. Currie candidly discusses meeting singer-songwriter John Denver, the eclectic music she would take with her if stranded on a desert island, whether there is such a thing as the perfect guy, what she is most passionate about, what makes her angry, facing online criticism, the tragedy of living on pipe dreams, why she sincerely values her fans, and much more.
The Cherie Currie Interview (Part One)
Are you a John Denver fan?
Funny that you should ask that. I was a big fan of John Denver during my teenage years. Last time I saw John in Sept. 1995, he was playing at the Summer Pops Bowl in San Diego. My son, Jake, was four years old and still kinda clingy to Mom [laughs], but he absolutely loved John Denver as a baby.
Anyway, I went backstage to meet John. He reached out to hold Jake, but Jake turned towards me and hid his face. He’s never forgiven himself for that because he wished so much that he would have let John hold him. It was a pleasure to meet him [Author's Note: Denver would have turned 70 years old on Dec. 31. His final keyboardist, the gifted Chris Nole, spoke candidly earlier today regarding his storied friendship with the late songwriter].
If you were stranded on a desert isle, what music would you want nearby?
Of course, I would want my son’s music with his band, Maudlin Strangers. I’d also be pretty satisfied with The Beach Boys, Bread, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, David Live [David Bowie’s debut live album, 1974], and Suzi Quatro’s Your Mamma Won’t Like Me .
God bless Joan Jett. When were on tour, I always had to bring my turntable. We would get on an airplane and I somehow managed to haul that da*n turntable with me. Lita constantly rolled her eyes [laughs]. I played my worn-out copies of The Best of Bread and Streisand Superman [Barbra Streisand, 1977]. Joan was so forgiving for all that kind of stuff.
This is gonna bring a tear to my eye. When we were on tour, Bread was playing somewhere with opening act Jelly. They invited us to see their show. Drummer Sandy West and I sat on the side of the stage as their guest and watched the concert. Bread had this big disco ball in the arena. When it was time for David Gates to deliver “If”, Sandy and I both started crying. I miss my friend so much. She was unequivocally a great woman.
Is nervousness a factor in your professional career?
It’s funny because I’m not nervous before I get on a stage. Of course, there are exceptions. I felt a little bit of nervousness before doing my very first show in March 2013 after not doing any full shows in decades. Now I don’t experience any at all after these last few tours that I’ve done.
Have you met the perfect guy?
No, there’s no perfect guy. To be honest, I haven’t dated in years. I used to believe that I had to have a person in my life to make me whole. I felt that was the truth until I was alone and got comfortable with who I was. There’s no way I ever would have been able to find out nor would I have ever been able to have the guts to do what I do today if I had been in a relationship. That’s just me.
I had a wonderful husband, actor-comedian Robert Hays, who remains my best friend. Even though we’re divorced, we love each other more now than we ever did when we were married. We do everything together as family.
I don’t think about dating. I feel like that time for me has passed. I’m a very solitary person. Relationships can sometimes take time away from something that I need to do. I really don’t know what it is that I’m going to do every day, but I know that I absolutely have to do it. Does that make any sense?
What are you most passionate about?
People believing in themselves, believing in who they are, believing that they are unique and that there’s no one like them on this planet. If they feel in their heart there’s something that they wanna do, they can do that, and no one can tell them different. You can survive anything if you believe in yourself. That is what I am the most passionate about.
What makes you angry?
People telling others how to live their lives or telling others that they can’t do it because they’re the ones that are afraid. The only reason why anybody ever gets into anybody else’s business is either because they’re afraid or they don’t believe they can do it themselves so they have to stop their friends or loved ones from pursuing their dreams.
We’ve become a mediocre society because of Facebook and all these social sites where everybody has to ask permission or ask everybody’s opinion on whatever issue. It is not supposed to be that way.
We’re a distracted society now. People are missing out on who they are because they have this public forum that they can just ask any Tom, Dick or Harry, ‘Should I do this or should I do that?’ They weigh it all out and in the end you lose.
Go out, take a hike, go in the mountains somewhere, or camp for a few days. Ask yourself this important question: Why am I here? What do I want to do with my life? Because the answer is there, and it’s been there since the day you were born. There’s just so much noise that we allow to come in and drown out all those things.
I still don’t have an iPhone and I won’t allow Internet on it [laughs]. I cling desperately to privacy and to those moments where I can feel what my next move is or what am I going to do tomorrow. It’s a feeling. You’re guided through these minefields. If you aren’t tapped in, you’re gonna hit a mine. People would really like themselves if they just let themselves get to know who they are.
How do you deal with criticism, especially of an online nature?
If we stopped looking at all the negative and looked at the positive of all of it, what a different world we’d live in. Trust me. I deal on Facebook with people writing, ‘She doesn’t deserve to be singing. She left the Runaways. She left them selfishly. She doesn’t deserve to ever be on the stage again.’ It’s like, ‘My God, you can’t be serious.’
As much as social media can be fun and a good business tool, some people should never have a soapbox to stand on. I’m just so glad that my son is grown now because I can’t imagine how some of these young kids have to deal with cyberbullies.
You don’t even have to say your real name or put your real picture up there. You can be somebody else and avoid people. They don’t even have the guts to say who they are. That’s the scary part. It’s a crazy world we live in. But the thing is – I’m glad that I see through the bulls**t. I know so many people don’t and that’s what worries me.
What would your perfect day consist of?
Hiking in the mountains with my son would be a very perfect day.
How do you feel about your fans?
In this business people forget why they’re where they are. They’re there because the fans cared enough to put them there. That’s why Lita and I wanted a Runaways reunion so badly because we care about what the fans want. It’s not up to me to turn around and say, ‘Oh well, it might not be exactly what you want.’ If you want it, I’m gonna give it to you.
I’ve also learned that philosophy being a chainsaw artist. When you live alone with two dogs and a kid, you’ve got to do something with your life. You can’t live and pay bills on pipe dreams. The chainsaw carving is the reason why I have my house. I’m a realist with everything. You don’t get a perfect credit score or record by living on pipe dreams. You have to do what you have to do to survive.
When I carve a piece for somebody, they have to be over the moon and then some. It’s gotta be a thousand times better than what they expected. I gotta give them everything I’ve got. I don’t do anything in this life half-assed because it’s gonna be around long after I’m gone.
I also want to leave this world not hurting anybody and not doing anything selfishly for myself. I’m astounded at how many people rip other people off and steal. They’re all in this business, too. I’ve been very lucky that my fans have enabled me to experience a degree of success as an artist in various forms.
DON'T GO ANYWHERE YET! Dennis Wilson personified the essence of a cool rock drummer. Wilson was a late bloomer compared to his mega talented brothers –Brian and Carl – but he ultimately emerged as the Beach Boys' most underrated songwriter, producer, and vocalist. A Dennis-led performance was an emotionally wrenching experience, combining deeply personal lyrics, a majestic yet delicate instrumental track, and a vocal so weathered as to be almost ravaged. On the anniversary of what would have been Dennis' 68th birthday, a slew of Beach Boys experts documented the drummer's tragic trajectory and legacy among modern musicians in "Like Heat from a Blast Furnace: The Sheer Raw Force of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson." It is required reading into the window of a tortured yet extremely gifted soul.
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Further Reading: It's difficult to find a more illustrious 40-year musical career than that of Chuck Leavell, best known as a member of the Allman Brothers Band (dig his iconic contributions to the "Jessica" instrumental) and currently manning the keyboards for the Rolling Stones. On the rare occasions when he performs solo, the raconteur's anecdotes absolutely mesmerize the crowd. An all-new article, "That's Chuck Leavell, Not Chocolate Milk: In Concert with the Stellar Pianist", details a special benefit performance in South Georgia as the musician recalls his admiration for Hank Williams, country music, the secret to a successful marriage, the songs he wrote for the women in his life, touring with George Harrison during a 1991 sojourn in Japan, and the confused, funny reaction he received from a six-year-old fan after listening to Eric Clapton's definitive "Unplugged" MTV album.
Further Reading No. 2: Did you know that former Beatle George Harrison followed up his critically-acclaimed solo debut, the triple-LP "All Things Must Pass", with another number one record featuring the drumming expertise of compadre Ringo Starr? Surprisingly, "Living in the Material World" contains one song that remains largely undiscovered by the general record buying public. "Don't Let Me Wait Too Long" is a Beatlesque and pop-oriented track that deserved to be a hit single. No stone is left uncovered in the fascinating feature, "Rediscovering a Superb Love Song..."
Further Reading No. 3: When chanteuse Bobbie Gentry burst onto the pop music landscape during the trippy Summer of Love with the mysterious "Ode to Billie Joe", usurping the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" from its number one perch, who could have imagined the massive success awaiting her? Gentry was an innovative lyricist who wove rural narratives together with ease and poignancy. "Billie Joe", a brilliant Southern gothic tale sprinkled with controversial subject matter such as young love, a disapproving family, a baby born out of wedlock, and ultimate suicide, scratches the surface of her fascinating, albeit short-lived career. In "Ode to Bobbie G: The music and mystery of a Mississippi Delta Queen", Gentry's enduring significance and exactly why she abandoned the bright lights of fame for relative obscurity is explored in illuminating fashion. Don't miss it!
Exclusive Interview: Dubbed the resident genius of The Monkees, a still-controversial band among some rock critics who rivaled The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for a time, Michael Nesmith knew he wanted to play music upon graduating from San Antonio College. The son of the inventor of liquid paper, Papa Nez participated in the incredible rat race of Monkee celebrity, but his heart lay in songwriting. After composing Linda Ronstadt's first hit, "Different Drum," Nesmith exited the band that made him a household name and ventured into the uncharted waters of country rock with his First National Band. The cosmically conscious musician surprised fans by spending much of 2013 on the road and agreed to spend some time with this writer on his musical back-pages, Elvis Presley, some tunes worthy of rediscovery, and the unimagined joy of touring again. Visit "Still Rollin' with the Flow: Twists and Turns with Songwriter Michael Nesmith" for the juicy enchilada.
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